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Facebook on Monday announced pay raises for thousands of contract workers, as well as an increase in support services for content moderators, less than a week after The Washington Post detailed grievances from workers who say they are treated as second-class citizens at the tech giant.

The pay increases were in response to rising costs of living for contractors working in the U.S., Facebook said. The company also noted that content reviewers -- who mine the site for graphic posts such as suicides and shootings -- needed more support, higher wages and additional benefits, "given the nature of their jobs." Facebook employs 15,000 moderators globally -- more than any other tech company.

"Content review at our size can be challenging and we know we have more work to do," Facebook's Janelle Gale, vice president of human resources, and Arun Chandra, vice president of scaled operations, said in a statement. "We're committed to supporting our content reviewers in a way that puts their well-being first and we will continue to share steps forward on this important topic."

Last week, The Washington Post chronicled a campaign by about a dozen moderators who are alleging poor working conditions, including insufficient counseling and pay cuts. They've taken their grievances to their employer, Accenture. The contractors hadn't spoken previously about their organizing, but they used Facebook's internal communications system, Facebook Workplace, where thousands of employees have seen or commented on the messages.

In 2015, Facebook introduced a $15 minimum wage. But on Monday, the company said that is has "become clear that $15 per hour doesn't meet the cost of living in some of the places where we operate." Contractor wages are being raised to a minimum of $18 per hour in Seattle and to $20 per hour in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York and Washington, D.C. The changes will take effect in summer 2020, and Facebook is planning similar standards for contractors in other countries.

Content reviewers in the Bay Area, New York City and Washington will receive a higher pay boost, to at least $22 per hour. Seattle reviewers will earn $20 per hour while workers in other U.S. cities will get $18 per hour.

"Their work is critical to keeping our community safe, and it's often difficult," Gale and Chandra said.

Tech giants don't include moderators or contractors such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers in their official head count of full-time employees, which for Facebook stood at 37,700 worldwide at the end of March. By some estimates, contractors make up at least 40 percent of the workforce at large Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook and Google.

As part of the changes by Facebook, all vendors must provide on-site counseling during all operating hours, not just during parts of certain shifts. Facebook is also working with vendors on well-being and resiliency training. Reviewers can also customize how they view certain content, including temporarily blurring graphic images by default before looking at them, the company said.

"We made these changes after hearing feedback that reviewers want more control over how they see content that can be challenging," Facebook said.

Information for this article was contributed by Elizabeth Dwoskin of The Washington Post.

Business on 05/14/2019

Print Headline: Facebook takes steps to address contractor concerns

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